Saturday, March 28, 2009
Friday, March 20, 2009
I'm glad she lived as long as she did, given the forces arrayed against her. And I am glad it looks more likely she was not kiiled simply by the prison system, as so many tranys were, but by the sort of thing almost inevitable given the number of people with serious grudges against the poor girl. But I am having a little bit of a crying day for her. She never done me wrong, and I knew her about twenty years from when she was but a teenage queen at the Courthouse hotel early opener, before she became a scene stealer on William Street, a black Barbie doll with attitude. She even featured in my comic book An Hour on the Life of a Spansexual Sex Worker, which records my view of the incident when she was first banned from one of the safe houses (which is now closed). Vale, Paris.
Wednesday, March 18, 2009
Tick a box: male, female, unspecified
Tick a box: male, female, unspecified
* Katrina Fox
* March 18, 2009
Are you male or female? For most of us, answering that question is no problem, although whether we want to is another matter. But for some people, these categories simply don't fit. They consider themselves neither male nor female - essentially, genderless.
Take Norrie May-Welby, an activist and performer in Sydney, who says: "Some of us have found it better to identify in non-gender-specific ways; it's not our life and those roles don't fit us."
May-Welby uses pronouns such as "zie" in place of "he" or "she", and "hir" in place of "him" and "her", and says: "Some people get angry with the idea that I'm not a man or woman. It's fair to say there's sexual anxiety underneath it: they're thinking, 'If I'm attracted to this person who is neither male nor female, they've shattered my idea of myself as straight or gay.' "
Rejecting such deeply entrenched cultural norms has its challenges. Aside from being branded a freak and suffering the occasional physical attack, genderless people claim they are forced to lie every time they fill out a form. Whether it's a job application or government document, they, like the rest of us, are required to tick the "M" or "F" box, with no other options.
But this will change if the Australian Human Rights Commission has its way. In its report Sex Files: The Legal Recognition Of Sex In Documents And Government Records, launched yesterday, the commission recommends that anyone over the age of 18 should be able to choose to have an "unspecified" sex noted on documents and records, and where possible sex or gender questions should be removed from government forms and documents.
For May-Welby, such a move will be "freeing" and enable May-Welby to "just be another human like everyone else". But what does it mean for the rest of society? Is it, as the Australian Family Association spokesman, John Morrissey, puts it, "a crazy ideological agenda behind getting rid of gender", or the start of an egalitarian utopia in which no one is discriminated against because of their biological sex or gender presentation?
There are times when not being asked to specify your sex or gender can work to your advantage - in job applications, for example. We'll never know how many times we've missed out on an interview because our application was rejected at the sifting stage because of gender or sex bias. And what the person selling us a packet of cashews or removing our appendix has between their legs is hardly relevant to the task at hand.
There is a difference between sex and gender: sex refers to our physical make-up and biological structures, while gender is about how we perform, whether we do "masculinity" or "femininity". But the terms are often used interchangeably on legal and government documents.
If the thought of a gender other than male or female sends you into meltdown, bear in mind that it is the natural order of any society to progress. Australia looks very different today from 100, 50 and 20 years ago. Gay and lesbian couples are set to benefit from new equality law reforms starting in July, so it's not such a great leap to embrace the concept of sex and gender diversity.
We've already come a long way in this area. The 1990s saw the birth of the "trans" liberation movement. Identities including transsexual, transgender and transsexed became part of the lexicon. Since then, television networks have fallen over themselves to include trans characters in their shows (Ugly Betty, Dirty Sexy Money) and Hollywood has considered them worthy subjects of films (Transamerica, Boys Don't Cry).
Now it's time to get our heads around even more fluid sex or gender identities and the possibility of relating to some people as genderless - even if that challenges our assumptions of our sexuality.
We may be far from a perfect world in which no one is judged negatively solely on the basis of their biological sex, gender performance or sexuality, but the commission's recommendation for an extra category of "unspecified" sex and gender markers on legal and government documents is a good start.
It is not the end of gender, and it doesn't mean the end of male and female identities. It is simply an acknowledgment of a diversity that needs to be recognised. If the Federal Government adopts the recommendations, it will put Australia at the forefront of pioneering human rights legislation, and that's surely something to be celebrated.
Katrina Fox is a freelance writer and the co-editor of Trans People in Love.
Thursday, March 12, 2009
Wrestling in the Park
This year marks the fourth anniversary since my social world expanded with Queeruptions, an international queer anarchist gathering I helped organise, and the Quueruptions Sex Party, where I met my best friend Sam, and we should just encourage speculation by leaving it at that.
Outside of work and political colleagues, I'd been pretty much a loner before Sam initiated our friendship, and he has proved to me that angels are sent from heaven. We are both irreverent, intellectually curious, adventurous, hedonist, and committed to a broader communal wellbeing. And he does pull a gaggle of very easy on the eye guys with him ; )
It gave me great pleasure to give him my comp to the show I was in at Carriageworks for the Mardi Gras festival, Quick and Dirty. The show was all very avant garde, and I felt a bit pedestrian just singing a song and swanning about a bit when others were doing spectacular costume changes while juggling, gargling tomato sauce, fellating a blow up doll, and critiquing Proust. But the dress rehearsal went so well I was asked to do an additional two nights (I had initially only been booked for one), and massively enjoyed performing a localised version of Walk on the Wild Side as a love song to all of us freaks.
My neighbour Craig was also in the show, as the central aerialist of CircXs, and my old drinking mate Cindy Pastel wrestled the last tear from Ruby Red Dress in a foyer show, and several other friends from the anarchist/freak/arty scene were in the show, and I realised that I have run away and joined the circus, and I am overjoyed to be accepted by carnies, despite my nerdish background.
Icing on the cake was getting the scoop on some Mardi Gras Parade concerns re corporate interference, which made for a timely cartoon in the South Sydney Herald on one of my favourite topics, individual freedom versus obvious or subtle corporate control.
Although I guess one of the highlights of my Gay Mardi Gras season was going out after doing my show to the Carnival of Electric Illusions held in the Spanish quarter, where some of the venue regulars joined the partying queers, but the regulars weren't all straight, and this luscious lad who fancied me as a drag queen but who was happy to adapt to what his groping discovered, took me for a hot roll in Hyde Park, and finally came back to my boudoir so I could stop worrying about the police arresting us for public bonking. He looked just like Dev Patel.
I do alright for an old duck ; )
Wednesday, March 11, 2009
Corporate Sanitised Sexuality Parade
Others complained about being unable to videophone their friends because Foxtel was protecting its exclusive live telecast rights.
And others suspected corporate pressure in what amounted to admittedly mild censorhip of youthful expression, but to fair the Amnesty International organisers agreed with the suggestion from Mardi Gras that a noose shouldn’t be used. The noose was proposed to represent the death penalty (in 7 countries, for being gay), but organisers decided it was too suggestive of suicide, which was counter-productive.
I used the Amnesty float change as one element of a cartoon depicting some questionable aspects of the parade. It is in no way meant as a slur against the commited and caring people who put this entry together, just a light hearted asking of a question.
There's also a suggestion in the cartoon of the couple in the Love Underwear float being not at all gay, as they are a male and female model. After the cartoon was published, I met a couple of heterosexually-identifying people who revealed they had been paid to model on a commercial float. I am personally very fond of heterosexuals (it's a transsexual thing that some gays don't quite get), and am always glad to see the divisions of gay/straight/male/female subverted to make room for us messy humans. Yet this shows how corporate interests may dilute the point of this parade. I say let freedom ring, and not make way for people flogging ringtones!
The Mardi Gras Parade does a lot of good, but concerns about corporate interference should be taken seriously, or it will be irrelevant to more and more young people disenchanted with corporate control.
The most good the parade does is in the visibility of human diversity, and it would achieve this better if if were broadcast free to air on ABC, as once happened before the commercial interests were contracted with. Now it makes Foxtel a tidy $25 per pay-per-viewer, it may be missing the isolated young genderfluid person in Wagga for whom it could have been a lifeline.
What can’t Mardi Gras just be a demonstration of diversity, a celebration of human sexuality, love, sassiness, and creative expression? Let the companies and governments donate money, but let’s reject all corporate control of the parade. It’s not for the corporations, it’s for the people.